Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Argentina on 30 November 2018 (Photo credit: Ludovic Marine/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin called Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) on 23 September to congratulate him on Saudi National day, the 90th anniversary of the unification of the Kingdoms of Najd and Hijaz.
In a statement issued by the Kremlin, both leaders discussed enhancing cooperation within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Additionally, both parties tackled the decision reached by the Samarkand Summit to grant Saudi Arabia the status of a “partner in dialogue.”
The statement noted that MbS praised “the growing role of the SCO in international affairs, and expressed the kingdom’s readiness to actively participate in its activities.”
Furthermore, the two leaders discussed the Russian-Saudi coordination to stabilize the global oil market within the OPEC + landscape.
Putin reiterated Russia’s adherence to the Russian-Saudi oil agreement and invited the kingdom to the “Russian Energy Week” forum, which will take place between 12-14 October.
Edward Luce wrote in the Financial Times on 21 September that the current tensions between Saudi Arabia and US President Joe Biden’s administration have forced MbS to move towards Russia.
Even with Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia in July, the tensions in their relationship have only escalated, as the kingdom refused to help the US lower gasoline prices back home.
Instead, MbS and Putin agreed to further benefit from the current geopolitical tensions and their toll on the oil market by increasing their revenue from oil sales.
The crown prince’s stance, and refusal to increase oil output in order to lower oil prices, have tilted the balance in favor of Russia in the face of US sanctions, which are intended to hinder Moscow’s war efforts in Ukraine.
“The impact of sanctions on Russia’s economy is very uneven. The oil sector is relatively unscathed for now,” said Janis Kluge, senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
As a result of the current surge in oil prices, Reuters reported that Russia’s energy exports are estimated to reach $255.8 billion in 2022, outperforming the revenue in 2021 despite the current suffocating sanctions regime against Moscow.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia played an unexpected role in mediating a prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia on 22 September.
Ten mercenaries captured by the Russian army were transferred to Saudi Arabia ahead of their repatriation back home as part of a prisoner exchange deal.
The deal included five British, two American, and other nationals facing the death penalty in Russian-allied republics in Ukraine.
During their phone call, Putin “thanked the Crown Prince for his active and distinguished contribution to the success of the prisoner swap.”
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its gratitude to the Russian Federation and Ukraine for “their response to the efforts made by the Crown Prince for the release of the PoWs.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also called MbS to thank him for his efforts.
The kingdom’s choice not to ally with the west against Russia has contributed to increased economic growth and greater political reach, despite the many attempts to sideline MbS.